Woodland Management 2021

Wimbledon and Putney Commons are currently involved in Year 3 of a Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship Agreement which is administered by the Forestry Commission and Natural England.

The main objectives of this agreement include:

  • To create a more varied range of tree age and to ensure good succession.
  • To maintain and enhance Hazel coppice
  • To create a more varied range of tree age and to ensure good succession.
  • To maintain and enhance Hazel coppice
  • To reduce the dominance of Holly in the understorey.
  • To increase open areas in the woodland
  • To remove invasive non-native species.
  • To retain non-intervention areas.
  • To retain veteran trees and dead wood both fallen and standing
  • To improve wetland areas and ponds
  • To encourage a wider range of native species
  • To foster resistance against disease and pests.
  • To maintain and improve amenity
  • To encourage recreation and education on the Commons

Although 2020 in particular was a very difficult year in terms of completing certain projects on the Commons, during our involvement with the Commons’ current woodland management plan we have made good progress in our overall ambition to improve the 261 hectares of woodland that are found across this site.

So far, some of the most significant woodland operations that we have completed have included:

  • Hazel coppicing near Upper Gravelly Ride
  • Open glade management at Stag Bog and the Brickfield Site.
  • Ride side management near 7 Post Pond and Scio Pond
  • Woodland thinning to help improve Scio Pond and Curling Pond.
  • Woodland thinning along the edge of the Beverley Brook on Wimbledon Common.
  • Planting of 700 whips (small bare root trees) around various areas of the Commons’ woodland.

Open space management work at Stag Bog has helped the area remain wet 
throughout the summer months.

Looking into the immediate future, during the remainder of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, we shall be embarking on one of the most ambitious phases of our current woodland management plan by thinning a dense area of Holly from the area surrounding part of Robin Hood Ride (the track that runs from Springwell Car Park to Beverley Brook).

This work will be undertaken by a small team of foresters who will be working on site from the beginning of November 2021 until potentially the latter part of February 2022.

While Holly is a native species and can provide nesting opportunities for birds and nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects, reducing the coverage of Holly around certain areas of the Commons’ woodland will be of great benefit to the overall biodiversity of the site.

Unfortunately, in areas of woodland where Holly has become dominant, the low levels of light that accompany the presence of this hardy tree greatly restrict the development of a well-structured woodland environment.

In a natural, or near natural state, woodland would ideally contain a full range and balance of structure and this would include:

  • A field layer (ferns and grasses)
  • A shrub layer (low growing scrub species, up to 5m high)
  • An understorey of low growing trees
  • The canopy layer.

By retaining approximately 10% of the existing Holly in each hectare of woodland, it is our aim to ensure that while some Holly remains in the woodland, the majority of the Commons’ woodland is not dominated by this species and a natural process of woodland regeneration can be allowed to take place.

Robin Hood Ride photographed: September 2021

Peter commented "Anyone who is interested in seeing for themselves the results of Holly thinning on the Commons, between 2014 and 2016 approximately 30 hectares of Holly thinning was carried out around the woodland to the south west of Wimbledon Common.

These areas included woodland along Warren Farm Ride, Upper and Lower Gravelly Ride and woodland close to the Silent Pools.

While the work appeared quite dramatic during the operational phase, recovery was very quick and what we now have on the Commons is a far more open and healthier woodland than existed only a few years ago".

To ensure the safety of visitors to the Commons, barrier tape will be used to temporarily mark off the areas where Holly thinning is being carried out and there will be small fires on site to help dispose of the brash.

These fires are an important part of our woodland work programme and they will be supervised at all times by the foresters.

The London Fire Brigade have been informed about the location and timings of these fires and therefore to prevent wasting the Fire brigade’s time or preventing the foresters from carrying out their work, we would please ask that if you have concerns about the presence of fires on the Commons, please telephone the Rangers Office: 020 8788 7655.

In addition to this project, our own teams will also be on site throughout much of the winter period carrying out tasks such as Hazel coppicing, ride-side management, open glade management and tree safety work.

To help maximise the amount of time that our staff are able to provide to carrying out the Commons much needed programme of woodland work, certain paths and rides will need to closed for short periods of time but these routes will be re-opened as quickly as possible.

Woodland near Upper Gravelly Ride: September 2021